HC Deb 15 March 1938 vol 333 cc188-9
13. Sir Arnold Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for War whether he is prepared to consider the setting up of an inquiry into the existing system of trial by court-martial?

The Secretary of State for War (Mr. Hore-Belisha)

Yes, Sir, I am happy, on behalf of my Noble Friend the Secretary of State for Air and myself, to say that Mr. Roland Oliver, K.C., has consented to be chairman of a Committee to make such an inquiry. The terms of reference are as follows: To examine the existing system of trial by court-martial under the Army and Air Force Acts and matters incidental thereto, and in particular to consider whether it is desirable and practicable that a person convicted by court-martial should have a right of appeal to a civil judicial tribunal against his conviction, and to make recommendations. The members of the Committee are:

  • Mr. Tristram Beresford, K.C.
  • The Right Hon. Sir Felix Cassel, Bt., K.C.
  • The hon. Member for Chester-le-Street (Mr. Lawson).
  • Air Vice-Marshal C. A. H. Longcroft, C.B., C.M.G., D.S.O., A.F.C.
  • General Sir Felix Ready, G.B.E., K.C.B., C.S.I., C.M.G., D.S.O.

Sir A. Wilson

While welcoming the statement of my right hon. Friend, may I ask him whether the terms of reference as stated by him cover inquiry into and consideration of the status and functions of the Judge Advocate-General, who is at present both prosecutor and court of appeal?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

The interpretation of the terms of reference will, of course, rest with the Committee, and I have no reason to believe that the point raised by my hon. Friend will be excluded from the inquiry.

Mr. Batey

Will the Committee have power to inquire into some of the recent decisions of courts-martial, where sentences on the men have been excessive?

Mr. Hore-Belisha

I am not aware of them.

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